Digital Life and Beastcam™ technology

Photo of Dylan imaging Tegu lizard with a Beastcam
Photo credit:
Duncan J. Irschick

Capturing the diversity of animal life in high-resolution 3D color has been largely inaccessible, until development of the Beastcam™ technology.  This technology allows biologists to capture the complex body shapes of a wide range of living organisms in high-resolution 3D color, which has launched our Digital Life initative.

One of the most challenging feats is capturing the complex body shapes of living creatures.  While CT-scanning and laser scanning can create accurate 3D models of dead animals, capturing the postures, colors, and textures of living animals was inaccessible until recently.  In the Irschick lab, we have developed several versions of portable, low-cost, and flexible mult-camera rigs, together forming the Beastcam™ technology.  This technology works through the process of digital photogrammetry, which consists of integrating multiple 2D images into a single 3D model.  These models offer great value for science, conservation, and education.  They can be 3D printed, viewed in virtual reality, and can be accessed on a wide range of computer devices to showcase complex body shapes, colors, and textures.  The Beastcam technology can be used in a wide variety of settings, such as in the field, the labroatory, or in zoos or almost any setting in which animals can be found.  The Beastcam team has already successfully created a 3D model of a live shark in April of 2016, and we are currently building our infrastructure to create 3D models for many other kinds of living organisms.

Using this technology, we have launched a new initative called Digital Life that aims to both create and distribute high-resolution 3D models of life on earth.  This effort is being done in partnership with various organizations and scientists from all over the world, including zoos, NGOs, and other partners. The initial goal of the Digital Life initative is to focus on two campaigns, namely frogs of the world, and sea turtles of the world.  These two endangered groups are deserving of digital heritage, and creation of 3D models for these organisms will highlight their delicate beauty, and act as a lever for conservation, education, and science.